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Willful Child

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These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback - a kind of James T Kirk crossed with 'American Dad' - and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through 'the infinite vastness of interstellar space'...

The bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his life-long passion for 'Star Trek' and transformed it into a smart, inventive and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-hi-tech-kit-along-the-way type over-blown adventure. The result is this smart. inventive, occasionally wildly OTT and often very funny novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published September 25, 2014

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About the author

Steven Erikson

103 books12.5k followers
Steven Erikson is the pseudonym of Steve Rune Lundin, a Canadian novelist, who was educated and trained as both an archaeologist and anthropologist. His best-known work is the series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 440 reviews
Profile Image for Kaora.
570 reviews281 followers
October 23, 2014
"SPACE...it's fucking big.
These are the voyages of the starship Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to see out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms..."

I, like many others, know Steven Erikson from his fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen, a series known for its great cast of characters and world building on a massive scale.

So when I discovered this book on NetGalley I was intrigued to see what else Erikson was capable of.

Willful Child follows the starship of the same name, and its captain, Hadrian Sawback. While the plot does not have a clear path, it is more a series of escapades that the ship and its crew run into or are put into by their headstrong, reckless, sex crazed, bumbling Captain.

Who reminded me a lot of a character from a favorite show.

His character can be wrapped up as follows:
Humans. Quasi-sentient species XV-27, category: Unlikely. Intelligence rating: Ineffectual. Cultural Development Phase: Age of Masturbation, Ongoing.

But although the main character was a bit of a jerk, Erikson soon had me smiling, then chuckling, then outright howling with laughter at the witty dialogue and hilarious events, a bit of a surprise for me as I probably would have passed this book over, if not for the name on the cover.

Hadrian unholstered his own weapon. "Recognize this one, oh Combat Specialist?"
"I believe that is a Varekan Suicide Pistol, Captain...designed to kill the user with minimum fuss."
"Shit, who stuck this one in the main weapons cabinet?"

The humor, and great world building make this a light read that any science fiction buff will love.

So join the adventure.

"Can't you just taste the adventures awaiting us? How would one describe it, I wonder"
"Like puke, sir."

Cross posted at Kaora's Corner.
Profile Image for Mpauli.
157 reviews458 followers
October 27, 2014
ARC copy received via NetGalley

Willful Child is the name of a space ship newly commanded by Captain Hadrian Sawback. Hadrian is the thorn in every admiral's side, due to his highly unconventional methods. Where did he get those from? Of course, 1960s television namely Star Trek and Captain Kirk.

Steven Erikson invites us to a parody of classical sf tropes. The Captain is highly inappropriate, a sexist and takes every possible unnecessary risk simply because he can and it looks cool.

Along with the crazy captain comes a crew that is also highly unusual. The weapons expert is a nihilistic trucker with a death wish, the pilot is not really able to articulate herself, but hey, she looks great and the doctor is a ballon kind of alien that spends more time with deflating and rolling helplessly around than healing.

The book has one major story arc, but in between the ship encounters every possible Star Trek episode plot. We get around 10-12 of these little episodes and it is highly entertaining to see how each of them unfolds.
With around 350 pages the book really flies by at Warp 9 and you get a bunchload of entertainment out of it.

If you know Steven Erikson from his Malazan Book of the Fallen series, you will know that he has a knack for creating very absurd but loveable characters and he has a talent to swap effortlessly between very silly and very thoughtful humor. If you're already a fan of Erikson's humor, you will also like this book.

Of course, in a parody it's always hard to talk about themes, but there is a very open critique in the novel toward our modern tendency to live via the internet and social networking sites and the contrast between passively watching and actively experiencing is made quite clear.

Humor is always very subjective, therefore you have to find out for yourself, if Steven Erikson hits your comedy-nail, but I am a huge fan of his work, so I can wholeheartedly give this one 5 stars.
And I wouldn't mind if Steven Erikson would throw in a book like this regularly between his next 5 planned Malazan novels.

Link to my video review on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ4Pv...
Profile Image for Trish.
1,947 reviews3,405 followers
November 12, 2018
Oy. *sighs* What to say about this? Well ...

Supposedly, this is a satire / parody of several well-known scifi adventures both on screen and on the page. Thus, a number of recognizeable tropes are presented here in what was supposed to be a funny way.
We get a horny ship's captain who isn't really fit for the job but mysteriously always ends up being the hero. Sort of.
We have the snarky ship's AI as well as some hot female and almost stupid male officers on the bridge. We have Space Marines full or corny badass one-liners and disgusting alien creatures. We have tech that is supposedly beyond our understanding while we are still a space-faring civilisation using that same tech now.

As a fan of Star Trek as well as a number of other TV and movie classics, many situations, characters and tropes were highly familiar to me. Of course, I also know of the "problems" of those classic stories (regarding characters as much as dialogues, their "science", props etc). And yes, those usually make me laugh.
Moreover, I'm also known to enjoy this or that nonsensical space adventure that is a satirical look at human society.
The problem here: the author was beating funny/silly situations to death by using them overandoverandoveragain. There is only so many times the captain's horniness and sexism is "funny" and the banter with the ship's AI got old pretty soon as well.

You could compare it to Seth MacFarlane's Orville, which didn't do anything for me either. However, I did enjoy Black Mirror's satirical episode that was also a nod/parody on Star Trek and others.

In short: I think this would have worked much better if it had been much shorter. The concept can work and I wanted it to work, too, but I only smiled once or twice, not even the attack kittens making me laugh. Thus, its humour kinda fell flat for me and left me wholly unimpressed. On the contrary, I was often rolling my eyes because of the afore-mentioned excessive use of tropes and repetition thereof. Too bad, really.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,034 reviews2,605 followers
November 4, 2014
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2014/11/04/s...

I have my husband to thank for my love of Star Trek. I wasn’t a fan before we met, but back when we first started dating he sat us down in front of the TV with a bunch of Star Trek shows and movies and sought to make a new convert out of me. And of course, he insisted we just had to start with the 1960s Original Series.

Yes, when you watch TOS now it does seem cheesy, with the special effects and props looking stunningly fake, aliens that look almost undistinguishable from humans, newly discovered planets with landscapes that look suspiciously like Northern California, and William Shatner’s Captain Kirk coming across as a bit of a lech given his inclination to jump into bed with any beautiful female no matter her shape, size, or species. But all that was part of the show’s charm, and it’s the reason why a lot of my all-time favorite Star Trek episodes are from that series. And no surprise, it’s also what makes Willful Child such an uproarious work of genius.

Steven Erikson essentially takes the tropes and campiness we know and love from TOS (and some from a couple other Star Trek series besides. The part with the Bor–I mean, Plog Collective had me in stitches), transforming and packing it all into this clever and downright hilarious novel which is one of the best spoofs I’ve ever read. These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations and wreak havoc upon them all. Led by the fearless but not terribly bright Captain Hadrian Sawback, who has an insatiable appetite for sex and a scary tendency to ignore all Affiliation regulations, the crew of the Willful Child traverses the galaxy and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans in this non-stop rollicking space adventure.

This is definitely new territory for me when it comes to Erikson. Prior to this book, I’ve only read his first Malazan Book of the Fallen novel, and so seeing him do over-the-top humor and sci-fi was a bit of a double treat. Obviously, Willful Child is a very different kind of book, being a parody of sorts. With the nature of comedy being so subjective, it probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The book is pulpish in the best way, featuring exaggerated larger-than-life characters, exotic places, bizarre aliens and outlandish villains. Still, there is no doubt Erikson is a passionate fan of Star Trek. Behind his merciless lampooning of the genre, I also see a loving homage. Readers will find this book highly amusing and Trekkers especially will recognize the references and source for a lot of the jokes, resulting in lots of laughs.

Sweepy spoke up, “Captain. I recommend we displace a squad down here and send them through. That way, should they all die, well, we only lost a few faceless nobodies. Excepting the chief engineer, sir.”

“Hardly seems challenging,” said Hadrian, rubbing at his manly jaw. “I was thinking of going through first, actually.” ~pg. 158

As with most works of satire, I was actually quite curious as to how Erikson would handle the storytelling. Turns out, the pace is snappy, heavy on the dialogue, and each story arc immediately segues into the next, emulating the episodic format of a television serial (in a couple instances, characters even break the fourth wall by referring to the situation as an “episode”). Fast-paced and filled to the brim with witty japes poking fun at Star Trek tropes and sci-fi themes, I really couldn’t have asked for more.

Needless to say, books like these are difficult to review and likely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, often because of how over the top they are. And yet they are fully intended to be this way, and as long as you know what you’re in for and recognize Willful Child as the entertaining parody it is, I think you’ll find it to be very enjoyable. For me, it was a nice change of pace, something I could sit back and read with abandon and simply indulge myself in its silliness. As every avid reader probably knows, every once in a while you just need a FUN! book like this in your life!
Profile Image for Ivan.
417 reviews278 followers
February 17, 2017
Now that was fun.

I was curious when I found out Erikson, who before this hasn't written anything non-Malazan related, has made Star Trek spoof. It's parody on Original Star Trek series but also a tribute from a fan who obviously had fun writing this. Like the series, book is made out of episodic adventures connected with loose main story with writing that's not all silly as initially appears, there is some serious satire put in there among all the humor.
Humor itself is very different from that in Malazan and reminds me more of Simpsons/Futurama, not all of it hit the mark for me and that's the main reason why it's getting 4 not 5 stars but overall I found this book very funny.
Profile Image for Steve.
962 reviews94 followers
October 5, 2015
Okay, I can't take anymore. This is obviously not my cup-of-tea, not my style of humor, and it is going onto the abandoned book shelf. First one for 2015.

It's not that the book isn't funny (it is) or that it is poorly written (it isn't), I just got tired of the constantly repeated lame jokes, the non-stop potty humor, and the continuous locker room banter. This book would have been much better as a novella instead of 300+ pages of middle-school humor.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
January 17, 2015
This is… nothing like the Malazan series, if that’s what attracted you to the idea of reading this book. It’s a parody/homage of Star Trek, mostly Captain Kirk era, with references to Kirk’s tendency to fist fight, get his uniform ripped, venture into dangerous situations the captain of a ship should probably avoid… And various other staples of the Star Trek series, like his way with women and his bullheadedness, etc, etc.

I thought this would appeal because a) the Malazan books are well thought out, very intelligent and carefully constructed, so I expected similar even in a spoofy story, and b) I grew up on Star Trek, among various other series. I have no problem with laughing at Star Trek, particularly the Kirk era. Buuut, as I’ve acknowledged on my blog before, I do not have the greatest sense of humour. I never quite know how to take a lot of jokes, particularly when the humour is fairly silly, and that happens a lot here. Along with the main character picking his crew for the way they look, making sexual suggestions to them all the time, getting assaulted by a female alien, and a whole dodgy bit where it somewhat implies he may have raped an officer he dislikes. Most of the humour revolved around ‘lol sex’, usually in a laddish way that just doesn’t appeal to me.

I feel like I can’t say much about the plot/writing/etc, because all of it just deflates for me under the influence of that horrible main character. He’s a caricature, and it influences the whole book. Not a fan. I much preferred John Scalzi’s Redshirts, which had somewhat more intelligent humour.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
November 13, 2018
A quick caveat before I review:

There is a lot of hardcore, almost gratuitously cruel humor going on in this Star Trek parody/enshrinement. I can almost guarantee either revilement or a blind reverence to the treatment herewithin.

That being said, I'm gonna squee a little.

I'm not always in the mood for an Orville-esq Star-Trek lambasting with rated R nastiness on the level with John Dies at the End, treated for the likes of the Federation, but this one tickled all my funny bones. Where Galaxy Quest did NOT go far enough for me, Steven Erikson lets me have all the wondrously insane magnifications that could only be dreamed up by an existing uberfan of the original series. And I mean, the entire series from the 60's all the way through the 80's, 90's, and oughts. Erikson made me chuckle, laugh out loud, and sometimes even made me drop my jaw by some really wicked SFnal devices that are hella worthy for any traditional treatment.

The Dimple Ray comes to mind. :)

But beyond that, we're treated to nod, lambast, reverence, even while our fearless captain breaks all the rules of engagement, decency, sociopathy, and reasonableness. This is the grimdark equivalent of every dark comedy and it is set in the future.

Crank it up. Play it loud. Louder. LOUDER.

Hey, Tammy? Could you put away that chicken, please?

BTW, I LOVE Tammy. Psychopathic Godlike AIs get me going. She's a nice change from Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. :)

Well worth the risk. Erikson's a smart cookie. :) I may like his SF better than his Fantasy.
Profile Image for Jay  The Crippled God.
157 reviews24 followers
February 6, 2017
Classic Erikson, Such is the God of Writing and all things that are Legendary in Scale.
This book was literally THE FUNNIEST AND HAPPIEST JOURNEY FROM BEGINNING TO END, and the only sad part is that when I finished it I really felt despair because I just didn't want it to end.

" Lo and behold, I will be their God, God of the Turdians." << Come on!!!! tell me that's just not legendary! and no more spoilers for future readers.

5/5 Stars is an understatement and it should be 12/5.

Ps. I see a lot of my self in Hadrian and I would like to think of my self as Erikson's student and he My God.

Live Long and prosper my Lord and I love you along side every person who red this review <3
Profile Image for Igor Ljubuncic.
Author 17 books237 followers
April 27, 2017
WARP 9, engage!

Willfull Child be like waking up, catapult arm fashion, and sprinting even before you opened your eyes. No stopping, no pauses, nothing. One breathless rush, and you can only exhale once you put it down, utterly spent.

Imagine James T. Kirk.
Imagine Douglas Adams.
Now blend them together.
What do you get?

The Malazan Book of the Hitchhiker's Guide to one Hadrian Alan Sawback!

Every little ridiculous thing you can think of about Star Trek is here. Sprinkled with some Star Gate, a bit of Celine Dion, and a solid dose of blunt Canadian humor, which is as graceful as shaving yourself with hockey skates. WESLEY engines, silly reptile-like alien species, sexual innuendo, lots of it, macrame, torn shirts, gender confused computers, marines.

This is just the beginning.

Crazy, totally fun.

I understand why Steven Erikson needed this. After writing 50,000 pages over 20 years of keeping it consistently together, he needed something simple and ridiculous. The product of 20 years of pent up frustration, three hundred thousand Malazan subplots, and good ole lunacy, the bastard offspring oozing off the incubation vat is, you guessed it, Willful Child.

The only drawback it, it's bloody exhausting.

Now, the conclusion:

Final frontier, the f**ing space,
Let's exterminate some alien race,
Shirts got torn,
The script was lorn,
The recruits all had a pretty face.

Fatally yours,
Igor T. Humpback
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
576 reviews214 followers
December 10, 2014
2.5 stars, rounding up.

I'm rounding up because I thought this was a successful break for Erikson from his Malazan series, and it was well written, for the most part.

But it got on my nerves. Part of that is my limited patience with comedy/parody. I like funny, but after the joke has been told I like to laugh and move on. When you stay on the joke for too long, it loses its funny.

As a Star Trek parody, this was pretty funny. If it had been the length of a novella, I would probably have liked it a lot more. As it was, it dragged on too long to keep me amused.

Though I did laugh at the battle near the end, Some of the dialogue was pretty good. All in all, Erikson did a good job with his story. Not everyone can pull off the humor as long as Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams can.
Profile Image for Aidan-Paul Canavan.
11 reviews75 followers
October 13, 2014
Steven Erikson's Willful Child is an hilarious, over-the-top, ridiculous spoof. It is right up there with Mel Brooks' Spaceballs and reminded me a bit of Get Smart! only with Star Trek the original series as the target of the parody. Erikson clearly knows and loves Star Trek and his reverent irreverence cackles loudly through on almost every page of this loving lampoon.

There are few books that make me laugh out loud while I am reading, and this is one. Make no mistake, this is a far cry from the serious fantasy that Erikson is better known for, and that change of style, tone and genre may throw a lot of readers.

I think it is probably a mistake to compare this to John Scalzi's Redshirts. While they both took Trek as the original inspiration for their stories, in terms of tone, style, focus and even type of story, they are wildly different novels. While Scalzi's novel certainly had moments of humour, it was more a meta-commentary on Trek and much of the humour was secondary to the story. Willful Child attempts to fire humour with both barrels on full auto from almost the opening chapter. I think the film 'Spaceballs' is a much more accurate comparison in terms of what Willful Child is and does.

In addition to the Trek parodies, which are plentiful, Erikson also takes aim at some other SF TV clichés like the fake viewscreen that doubles as a window, the exaggerated sound of special effects in space, and the use of beam/energy weapons.

There is a blend of farcical exaggeration and a believable SF future world as Capt. Hadrian (a man who takes hero worship of Kirk to new levels) blasts off on a series of adventures with his brand new ship and crew.

There is a cast of dysfunctional space misfits crewing the vessel under Hadrian's erratic command, and they encounter several alien races with varying degrees of success.

The novel itself is structured in a fairly episodic manner mimicking the tv show, and the point of view almost entirely rests on Hadrian's shoulders. Much like his hero, Kirk, Hadrian leaps into danger with a double fisted punch and a leaping kick. He leads from the front and hopes to hell that his crew is following him.

This might not be for everyone. Everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to comedy, but I for one thought this was brilliant.

On a more serious note, beneath a lot of the humour there are some very clever observations about contemporary society, criticisms of sf tropes and stories, and more than one comment on society's priorities.

But at the end of the day, much of this cleverness plays second fiddle to the comedy. If you want to read a fun, silly, entertaining parody of Star Trek, this is the book for you. If you want an exciting space adventure with doses of humour, read this. If you want a politically aware, socially conscious investigation of current society dressed up in SF clothing, there are a great many other books that would suit you better.

I would heartily recommend this to any fan of the original Star Trek, and to anyone who wanted an SF story full of silliness and laughter.
Profile Image for Ежко Таралежко.
213 reviews4 followers
July 18, 2017
Ще започна с нещо, което вероятно ще накара половината ми приятели да се откажат от мен - "Малазана" е прехвалена, досадна фентъзи поредица, която би влезнала в моите топ 10 само ако бях чел точно 10 фентъзи поредици.
Така, въпреки това реших да дам шанс на Стивън Ериксън, все пак пародийна фантастика, гавра със Стар Трек, какво толкова може да се обърка, ебаси.
Хлапето пък е досадна фантастика, чувството за хумор на Ериксън е просто несъществуващо, а малкото майтапи които му се получават се повтарят толкова често, че накрая почва да ти се драйфа от тях.
Сори пич, не смятам да те чета повече.
Profile Image for Brid-Aine.
34 reviews17 followers
October 30, 2014
Anyone who’s read Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, a searingly bleak and intricate fantasy series, will be bitterly disappointed with Willful Child (and yes, pedants, that is how he spells it).

Instead of a blistering and fascinating foray into sci-fi, Erikson does a limp, lacklustre job of Star Trek fan fiction, a parody in the style of John Scalzi’s Redshirts or the movie Galaxy Quest, but lacking in much of the basic ingredients for good comedy. We laugh hardest when something is newly funny or outrageous, but the tired old jokes trotted out in Willful Child fail to muster up even a small smile.

It’s possible that this is intended to be a parody of a parody, as Captain Hadrian Sawback strides across the deck of his very own starship, the Willful Child, making seriously off-colour jokes, offering to blow everything up and generally being an uber-masculine oaf – like Captain James T Kirk dialled up by another 90 per cent.

The trouble is that parody is supposed to say something about the thing it’s critiquing in an intelligent and humorous manner. This novel is more like an homage, as the crew come to love and respect him, women fall at his feet and he extricates himself and the ship whole and virtually unscathed from one precariously deadly situation after another.

Even that wouldn’t be so bad if Willful Child was very funny. Instead, you get pretty lame wordplay humour:

“I was one of twenty-two survivors, sir.” Hadrian nodded.

“It would have been unusual, don’t you think, had you numbered among the crew members lost.”

“Yes, sir.”

And tired computer humour:

Hadrian held up a finger.

“Here it is,” he said. “Everyone! See this finger? It is the finger of God! Watch it now, as it strikes any key!”

He stabbed down and the finger stabbed home. After a moment, HUB said, “Keyboard malfunction. Strike any other key.”

“Oh fuck!”

Fortunately, the next one worked.

Not every joke falls completely flat, but enough do that the whole set-up starts to feel ridiculous and you begin to wonder just how many pages of the damn thing are left. And it also makes it difficult to see the novel as a parody instead of an endorsement.

That’s particularly true when it comes to Sawback’s blatant misogyny and mistreatment of women. This is obviously intended as a send-up of the Kirk, Picard and Riker set of Starfleet officers, always looking to get on intimate terms with the crew and/or any passing aliens. But Erikson also throws in a few sexual assaults that are played for laughs, which actually make for quite uncomfortable reading.

Twice the Captain is assaulted, once by a huge alien and then by his female Marine Lieutenant, and both times he ends up in sickbay. At another point, a female officer who hates Erikson is passed out drunk in his stateroom and when another character, who happens to be the Lieutenant, goes to get her, she is “now mostly naked” and still unconscious. It’s unclear what the implication is supposed to be, but the last time she was seen conscious the Captain was mauling her and his only comment to the Lieutenant is, “I understand that what you discovered in my office might seem, well, a contravention of regulations and, indeed, decorum. But I assure you, it’s only half as bad as you think.”

These episodes are just plain weird. There’s no point being made and they’re not terribly funny, so it just seems totally bizarre. Because this is difficult subject matter to do in comedy, if you want to make jokes about sexual assault, it needs to be really funny and preferably come loaded with some sort of intelligent commentary as well. Just making it a man who gets attacked instead of a woman isn’t anywhere near inventive enough and pretty far from commentary of any kind.

These episodes are so WTF, it’s like watching Bill Bailey get up on stage at the Apollo and go, “Well, take my wife … go on, take her!” while making lewd gestures as if it’s the height of hilarious originality. Whatever Erikson was trying to achieve with this Star Trek parody, he seems to have missed his mark by quite a distance.
Profile Image for Rob.
848 reviews535 followers
August 1, 2016
Executive Summary: This book was OK. I was hoping it would be funnier. The plot could have been better too. I think he should probably just stick to writing Malazan books.

Audiobook: MacLeod Andrews seemed like a decent narrator, though 1 week removed from finishing, I don't recall much about him. He spoke clearly and was easy to hear. I think he did a few voices, but I might be mistaken. Audio is a good option if that's your preference.

Full Review
I should probably start by saying I'm not a big fan of the Original Star Trek series. I've seen all the movies, but very few episodes. I've watched all of the other series though. It's quite possible I missed a bunch of jokes as a result. There were definitely a few Next Generation jokes in there I got, especially one about everyone's favorite Ensign.

I really enjoyed most of the Malazan Fallen series, and I'm a big Star Trek fan, so I had pretty high hopes for this. Despite being "Grimdark" there are some really funny parts in Malazan, especially among the Marines. I think that sort of humor is harder to write, but maybe not. Humor is always hard in general. What one person finds hilarious the next person might find dumb.

With any humor or satire book, you are largely made and broken by the quality of the laughs. This book had some pretty hilarious parts, but often I was fairly uninterested in the characters and the plot.

The actual writing itself is fine, but story is so ridiculous at times that I just didn't care. The main character is intentionally an asshole. I kind of got tired of that by the end. For what the book is, it was fine, and I don't regret reading it. It was a quick listen.

Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed by this one, but I can easily see big fans of the Original Star Trek series enjoying this a lot more than I did. It's really going to come down to how funny you find the jokes I think.
Profile Image for Jon.
833 reviews253 followers
November 1, 2014
2.5 stars

I started reading this eARC immediately on the heals of the much less humorous Tarkin (see review posted earlier today). As is my usual wont, I did not read any blurbs or reviews of a new book, especially a pre-release advanced reader copy, prior to diving right in. So I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into with Willful Child. At the 25-30 percent read mark, I just couldn’t take any more. I stopped reading for five days before returning to the way-over-the-top antics of Hadrian Sawback, dragging along his poor crew regardless of whether they wear red shirts or not.

I can only describe this book, and frequently kept telling myself to make it to the end, that it was like Galaxy Quest only less inhibited. Erikson didn’t let up for a second. I literally had to slow my brain down enough to get the flashbacks of the visuals (sight gags anyone) while reading. I never actually laughed out-loud, but I did groan, repeatedly, internally.

Willful Child left me exasperated, not exhilarated. I groaned more than I laughed and I rolled my eyes quite a bit. I never felt the need to toss the ebook reader across the room, but I did need a break from the non-stop in-your-face ridiculousness of it before I could wrestle it down and finish it off. If you’re looking for a Space Balls type romp of a space opera, this may just be up your warped alley.

Read the rest of my review here.

My thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this eARC prior to the official release on Tuesday, November 14, 2014 from your favorite book retailer.
Profile Image for Nelson.
213 reviews13 followers
August 15, 2015
Willful Child is a Star Trek spoof and what a spoof!

We follow the adventures of Captain Hadrian Sawback a chauvinistic, absurd, crazy and frenetic character that during the whole novel shows us just how good Erikson is at creating characters. Hadrian might be a little bit crazy but the glimpses of great intelligence make this a very complex and compelling character.

Alongside Captain Sawback, there is a great supporting cast (most of the then beautiful women) that includes a very reliable 2IC, a claustrophobic engineer, a crazy AI, an airhead pilot, a drunken liaison and a couple of interchangeable communication officers. The references are clear, but Erikson gives them enough time so that by the end of this book you get to know them as characters and end up caring for them.

The book is basically a number of "Episodes" streamlined together with a very loosed plot that connects them to an overall narrative. But the frantic pace will not give you enough time to actually care for the lack of a strong overarching plot. No rest for the wicked.

The book is just funny, and it made me laugh and smiled a lot and that is commendable. We need more laughs and smiles in our lives.

Overall a very weird but enjoyable book that does not overstays its welcome.

Recommended to those who would like to have a laugh or are fans of Star Trek.
14 reviews
December 12, 2014
I'll note up front that I couldn't get past the 30% mark.

Willful Child is a parody of scifi tropes. Which, in this case, means a lot of characters doing stupid, harmful or malicious things for no reason other than to drive the plot and jump from one gag to the next. But because none of the characters have any internal motivation, it really only parodies the crappiest of crappy scifi junk and all of the jokes land with a thud. Oh, the captain says something dumb, so dumb that he shouldn't ever be a janitor let alone a captain. Funny? Not really. Maybe it would work as a 1970s Mad Magazine article - ten pages is about all I could take.

Lots of other people enjoyed it but it had me irritated and bored. Read Scalzi's "Red Shirts" instead - it has some real characters with lots of jokes and some heart to it.
Profile Image for Wendy.
600 reviews134 followers
March 19, 2016
These are the voyages of the Willful Child and it's arrogant captain, Hadrian Alan Sawback, who is this

combined with a healthy dose of this:

and a some of this:

In my quest to read more science fiction, I have made a point of reading scifi books by authors whose fantasy novels I have enjoyed. Steven Erikson's epic Malazan series led me to this book, which is more than just science fiction. It's his very tongue in cheek homage to Star Trek, a show he loves dearly, and an obvious cathartic break from his decades long work on Malazan. For these reasons, I can most certainly appreciate the effort, but frankly, I'm just not a fan.

Not that the book isn't well written. Lots of interesting characters and Erikson's already proven skill with words and his sharp wit. It's not easy to nail comedic timing in a non-visual medium, but Erikson manages some fantastic sight gags with just words on a page. The banter and power struggle between Sawback and Tammy, the AI that's taken over his ship, is particularly amusing.

The problem is that the jokes get old fast when it's just a variation of the same. Particularly the ones involving Sawback's lechery and misogyny. I get it. This is satire and I'm fine with that. But after a while, it all gets boring because Sawback and his people really don't learn or grow or do anything. Sawback is the intrepid hero who is always right even when he's wrong, and even though the women don't indulge his antics, much of which come from inner monologues anyway, I grew tired of hearing about it.

The ridiculousness of Captain Kirk is reknown and I praise Erikson for being able to satirically critique something he loves so much, but I think he could have done so within a few less pages. When I heard about the sequel, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty, I had to roll my eyes because I can't help but think that this is just going to be more of the same, and, I predict, somewhere along the way, this will happen:

Profile Image for Bcvs.
82 reviews17 followers
April 12, 2015
Perfection... or very close to it...
Space bags of laughs and merriment all round.
Going a bit too far with the sciobabble and why the family reunion toward the end? Borderline Scoobie Doo moment, so preventing this from being a total master piece for me.
Still, the running (you know what I mean), the crates (you know what I mean) and the macrame (you know what I mean) made up for it quite nicely.
Looking forward to the next episode in the adventures of Willful Child as it explores, implores and re-educates the galaxy!
Tammy, what's with the close up?
Profile Image for Matt.
283 reviews3 followers
November 11, 2014
I pretty much loved every page of this. If you are looking for something serious and thought-provoking then go elsewhere. This is a ridiculous, nonsensical book that as far as I can tell doesn't try and take it self seriously one bit. I really hope that Erikson continues to write books in this universe. And with more kittens!
Profile Image for Вени.
178 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2016
Докато четях тази книга, преминах през всички възможни оценки от 1 до 5 :).
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,691 followers
July 15, 2017
So you read a book by an author you love because, well, you have to, but also because you are full of knowledge -- not hope but genuine knowledge -- that is going to be good because you love that author and everything that author has written is good. And even better you love the genre that author has chosen to write in and you can't wait to see what that author does.

Even better, the author is trying to poke fun at some of your favourite television shows of all time: mocking Star Trek and Dr. Who and Red Dwarf and maybe even some shows that have nothing to do with the genre within which the author is writing. And you even think the author's conceit that each chapter is its own mission, like an episodic series, is a fascinating idea that could be a whole hell of a lot of fun.

But then you get deeper and deeper into the book and you can't help being disappointed. You find the humour uncomfortably sexist (and eventually get confused even by this, thinking maybe it's trangressive, but then you find out it's not and you're disappointed). You find yourself getting bored, then excited, then bored, and you're not used to the author's writing being so uneven. And at some points you want to throw the book against the wall, but then you hit a moment when the author makes you laugh out loud and you're interested again. You're infuriated with all of this, but what can you do? You keep reading and you finish, but you discover the most frustrating thing of all: there is a second book because it is now a series, and you realize that despite everything you are going to go and buy that sequel and read it.

What you need is an intervention.
Profile Image for M..
42 reviews
April 22, 2015
While I'm slowly getting through the Malazan series (very slowly, mind you) I picked up this title which promised to be an exceedingly offensive parody yarn through space.

Star Trek is obviously the main inspriration for the book, as is Zap Brannigan from Futurama. The genius of Brannigan is that he's used sparingly even when he's the main focus of an episode and the humour rings brilliantly. The plot is that a caricature of Captain Kirk fills his ship with hotties which is then taken over by a rogue AI with gender issues and it goes from there. Some if it admittedly is pretty clever, the nods to the cheapness of the original show do shine through and the second half of the book is infinitely better than the first.

But the humour falls flat on so many occasions it's infuriating. It's sexist, crass, lewd and laden with curse words but it's never funny. What should have a been a roaring triumph of Star Trek satire is a deflated mess, like a flan in a cupboard.
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,256 reviews132 followers
November 7, 2016
I like Erikson, I love star trek, and I am addicted to crazy humor.

This fit the bill - it is absolutely silly. It has a lot of laughing out loud, and also quite some cringe worthy moments, were you just can't believe what the characters said or did.

It has a lot of innuendo, as the captain tries to seduce whatever has two legs and is female, it does doesn't have any actual sex scenes though.

I liked the "one adventure after another" episodic style - made it really easy to pause and get back into the story.

3 stars from me - I would have wanted a bit more actual plot and at times it really was a bit too over the top silly, but it still entertained me quite well!
Profile Image for Jonathan Gibson.
15 reviews2 followers
July 18, 2014
That was a wild ride! The Star Trek parody is very apparent on the surface while following the crazy exploits of Captain Sawback. The overall tone is lighthearted and funny, but many thought-provoking themes (if you care to notice them) are explored just below the surface of all the jokes. Erikson's imagination is just as mind-bending in space as it is in Malaz, fun read!
Profile Image for elpida_la_blue.
109 reviews32 followers
June 4, 2019
Words to live by "Its mission: to seek out inane institutional idiocy and eradicate it. It's an ongoing job. Nobody appreciates it. Few even notice".

Awesome Erikson being awesome with an insane captain and an AI chicken on top.
Profile Image for Xara Niouraki.
120 reviews28 followers
November 17, 2014
I loved Willful Child. It's one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. Erikson's use of language and humour are exceptional. HIGHLY recommended to every sci-fi reader.
Profile Image for Milo.
771 reviews81 followers
November 9, 2014
The Review: http://thefoundingfields.com/2014/11/....

“A fun, entertaining Star Trek parody that is consistently entertaining and accessible to all fans of Space Opera, whether they’ve seen Star Trek or not.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the…

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback – a kind of James T Kirk crossed with ‘American Dad’ – and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space’…

The bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his life-long passion for ‘Star Trek’ and transformed it into a smart, inventive and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-hi-tech-kit-along-the-way type over-blown adventure. The result is this smart. inventive, occasionally wildly OTT and often very funny novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Steven Erikson is an author who is commonly associated with epic fantasy and whilst I haven’t had the chance to get stuck into his Malazan series yet, it’s certainly high on my to-read list. When I saw this novel crop up on NetGalley as a standalone space opera there was no way I was going to pass this one by with all the hype that I had heard about Erikson’s work, and it would be interesting to get a sampler of what his fiction would be like. As it turns out, Willful Child was not quite what I was expecting from the author of the Malazan series, but despite this, it turned out o be an incredibly fun and entertaining read that pokes fun not just at Star Trek, but at the space opera genre entirely.

Willful-ChildCaptain Hadrian Sawback, our main character, is described in the blurb as being a blend of James T. Kirk and American Dad, which couldn’t be more accurate, as he steers the ASF Willful Child into strange new worlds yet to be discovered by the Terran population. He’s an interesting choice for a lead character that’s handled very well. Erikson constantly injects a high level of humour into the narrative and as a result the book feels incredibly fun. It’s an over-the-top space adventure that should not be ignored with several moments that had me chuckling out loud as I was reading this novel. It’s fast paced as well, and will have you turning the pages to get to the finish line.

With all the dark and serious stuff that I’ve been reading lately, Willful Child came as a welcome surprise. It’s light hearted, fun and is actually honestly funny, which makes a real change from the amount of comedies on TV that I’ve watched recently that have failed to amuse me (pretty much the only one that I watch on a regular basis and can make me laugh out loud more than once per episode is Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and as a result I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Erikson can come up with next. I know his Malazan novels are nothing like Willful Child, but the fact that this novel is as good as it was may have raised the Malazan novels up my To-Buy list.

The book itself examines several science fiction clichés and not just ones commonly associated with Star Trek. It’s a parody, yet still feels like it can hold its own weight as a space opera novel. The comedy is the revealing aspect of the novel however, so if you want a serious take on space opera I’d recommend searching for another book. However, if you want to be entertained, then you’ve most certainly come to the right place.

Even so, I’d offer a warning before starting Willful Child – not every comedy is for everyone and Steven Erikson’s novel is no different. So expect to see a few hit and miss reviews from this book if you were to look elsewhere.

It’s not quite going to fit into my top novels of the year category, but Steven Erikson’s latest novel is something that comes recommended. Fans of space opera and the original Star Trek series will probably get the most out of this one, but even if you’re not, you could do far worse than this book.


Profile Image for AudioBookReviewer.
949 reviews162 followers
March 16, 2015
ABR's full Willful Child audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

WARNING: If you take hard science fiction aka space opera, or whatever you want to call it, very seriously. Do not listen to this audiobook.

Willful Child is a ridiculous, unbelievable, explicit, romp through the galaxy. Captain Hadrian Sawback and his crew stumble from crisis after crisis some how finding a way out of all of the trouble they find themselves in.

The main premise is this. Defiant new Captain of a brand new ship set sail to claim and pillage whatever they can com across in the name of the Alliance. Eventually get assigned a mission to take out a 20th century sports jersey counterfeit operation. Find that it is being run by a very self willed AI (Artificial Intelligence), that hijacks their ship in search of it’s maker.

If you try to compare this to anything you know as familiar, you will be disappointed. However if you can have an open mind, even I had trouble with this, you will be in for laugh out loud hilarity and adventure

Think Star Trek plus Pulp Fiction multiplied by Galaxy Quest divided by The Hunt for Red October. Hard to picture, totally the point.

I have never heard an audiobook performance like the one performed here by MacLeod Andrews. I am almost in all of how you can keep all the characters straight with their above average characterizations. Simply mind blowing.

I don’t know if he got notes from the author of how to make all these alien creatures sound when they’re speaking or what was going through his head but it paid off immensely. So many added sounds grunts, moans, I don’t even know what some of they were some of those were.

Particularly the ships doctor, Printlip, who’s race is some sort of multiple armed, eye stemmed, airbag of sort. Who has to take a gigantic breath before speaking and will often run out of air before he finishes. Then the alien race who apparently profusely spew slime from there mouths and other orafaces. A few time I swear Andrews was making the sound that is called many different things; finger raspberry, flap face, dweeberlips, kazoo kiss, etc.

In my opinion this was listening to Andrews at the top of his game because I have never heard anything like it from any other narrator and all the audio books I’ve listened to in the past. And sadly his performance was one of the only things really keeping me engaged to the whole story.

Audiobook purchased for review by ABR.
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